Syeda Naeem's Letter to the Editor on Social Services Session
On March 18, 2014 The Leadership Tangipahoa class of 2014 met for the social Services class. We visited the Council on Aging, Options, Our Daily Bread, Head Start, and Children Advocacy Services.
We started the day visiting the Council on Aging. Debi Fleming, the executive director of the Tangipahoa Voluntary Council on Aging has been working there for 20 years. She explained to us the great programs that are available for free to our senior citizens over sixty years of age. They provide not only warm meals, but also delivers meals throughout the parish. They offer art, exercise, and computer classes which our citizens enjoy and they also play group games. These wonderful programs help our senior citizen keep their physical, emotional, and dietary health in balance. The council on Aging provides transportation to keep our citizens active and mobile in the community and most of all this organization has compassion for our aging community.
Next we visited Options, the Chief Executive Officer; Ms. Sylvia Bush talked about the organization and the services they offer to the community. She has been working at Options for 34 years. Ms. Bush explained, Options is a private nonprofit organization with dedicated employees that provide quality care and support to 240 people with disabilities as well as helping them develop their social skills and self-esteem. Options' clients make beautiful jewelry, grow flowering plants, and vegetables. They also provide paper shredding, ironing, lawn, janitorial, and other services to the community. Options trains and find jobs for people with disabilities and they earn a paycheck which they spend locally. Also, in an emergency the Options facility functions as an emergency shelter.
After Options, we visited Our Daily Bread Food Bank, Myrna Jordan the Executive Director gave us a tour of the facility and showed us their walk in cooler and pallets of food. The organization was founded in 1999 and has over 400 volunteers, 18 cooks who prepare 250 meals a day Monday through Thursday. Our Daily Bread Food Bank distributes to 25 area food pantries, provides hot meals throughout the parish, and also provides emergency boxes containing items like toothbrushes and soap along with food to individuals in need. Also, they deliver meals to people who cannot leave their homes. Our Daily Bread is able to operate with donations and volunteers, to fulfill the need of hunger.
After Our Daily Bread, the next stop was Hammond Head start. The Director Toya Tillman talked about the programs and services they offer to low income families. They provide education, family support, health and development screening. Children are screened not only for hearing, speech, and visual disability, but also they are screened for mental health. The healthcare specialists provide therapy to all children who are in need. The Hammond Head start has 114 children in the program and 14 teachers with bachelors and associate degrees and they are focused on education and social skills. The program is funded by federal and state funds.
We stopped at Adobe for lunch which was provided by Betsy Hood. Our final stop was at Child Advocacy Services (CAS), the Chief Executive Officer Rob Carlisle talked about the services they provide. CAS started 20 years ago, and it is a non-profit organization providing services through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Children Advocacy Center (CAC). They have 7 fulltime staff members who "represent Child Voice" and they recruit, train, and appoint volunteers and serve 476 children. CASA and CAC are different programs. Casa has 18 centers and CAC has 15 centers in Louisiana. The primary goal of CASA is to find a secure and permanent home for the kids. In 2013 they placed 162 children in safe homes. CAC conducts forensic interviews, and they interview 228 children ages from 2 to 16 for abuse and 70% cases of physical or sexual abuse happens to children before the age of 18. We were also introduced to a dog name Hayward who comforts the children while they are going through the interview process. CAC is essential in investigative process and provides safe and secure environment for victims and families.
This month's class was very informative. The Council on Aging, Options, Our Daily Bread, Hammond Head Start, and CAS are the essential organizations in our Parish for social services and they are trying very hard to enhance the quality of life for the residents of our community by providing quality services to our community. The organizations in an effort to help the needy and save the children from abuse are made possible with contributions and volunteers, and they fulfill the needs of many within our Parish.
I am thankful to attend the Leadership Class and I appreciate being able to participate in such a wonderful program. I want to thank my sponsor and my employer, the City of Hammond, and the facilitator Nick Gagliano, Kelly Wells, Nic LeBlanc, and all my classmates and new friends that have made this year great.By: Syeda Naeem
City of Hammond